Rantau folk pine for the good old days

RANTAU: THE hot spell failed to keep the Kampung Sawah folks indoors on a late Wednesday afternoon.

One of them, who was seated alone at a busy Malay warong (stall) was Zolkifly Said (pic), who was watching the world go by.

The incessant honking from the Rantau by-election campaign trucks trying to attract attention from the people is annoying him.

“You can see Malays, Chinese and Indians coming to this warong every day.

“Opposite is a Chinese shop catering food for the Chinese.

“We are happy here and we do not need an outsider to be our assemblyman,” said Zolkifly, 61, when asked on his take on the Rantau by-election this Saturday.

Three-term Rantau assemblyman Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan from Barisan Nasional is in a four-cornered fight with Dr S. Streram from Pakatan Harapan and two independent candidates R. Malarvizhi and Mohd Nor Yassin.

Zolkifly claimed Mohamad, fondly known as Tok Mat, is set to win, and that he will secure 79% of the votes.

“The biggest support comes from the Malays followed by the Chi­nese and Indians,” he added.

Apart being a local boy whom the people in Ran­tau are familiar with, Zolkifly des­cribed Tok Mat as an upright person who does not hurt people’s feelings.

“Tok Mat helps the people a lot irrespective of race. Everyone here knows it ,” he said, claiming that the district council under the Paka­tan Harapan government had torn down the foodstalls in Kuala Sawah instead.

Born and bred in Rantau, Zolkifly said he is his family’s fourth generation in Rantau and he is already a grandfather.

“Six generations of my family have been here. We are a big extended family with more than 100 voters in Rantau,” said Zolkifly, who attended school at SMK Rantau, where Tok Mat was two years his senior.

The former soldier who is operating a cow and goat farm now, said the high cost of living, slowing business, unemployment and low palm oil price would influence the outcome of the by-election.

He said his business had plunged by half since the general election last year.

“My customers from all races said they had to cut down their consumption due to money constraints,” said Zolkifly, whose customers come from Negri Sembilan, Melaka, the Klang Valley and Putrajaya.

On the low palm oil price, he said his wife, who came from a Felda family, only got RM699 last month compared to RM920 seven months ago

“She and her other six siblings get the income every month by rotation. The family has 10 acres of oil palm plantation,” he said of the falling palm oil price for more than six months.

Zolkifly said the Chinese voting pattern would be influenced by the economy.

He said there were some very poor Chinese in Rantau.

“You come to the market here and see for yourself, “ he said, adding that he observed how some elderly Chinese women looking at the fishes and ended up not buying. It is pitiful, he added.

“It is not correct to say Chinese are rich,” he said.

A female Chinese shopowner in Kuala Sawah said bread and butter issues matter a lot to the community. Out of 3,849 Chinese voters in Rantau, 867 are in Kuala Sawah.

She said Tok Mat is a familiar figure in the community and is always around to attend events.

“I do not know how the doctor (Dr Streram) looks like,” she said when asked if the by-election workers from Pakatan and Barisan have been clamouring for support in the last lap of campaigning.

While she put the winning chances as 50/50 for Barisan and Pakatan, she however felt it would not be an “unconditional support” for Pakatan this time around, unlike the general election last year where many just wanted to change the government.

“We feel helpless and hopeless these days.

“They (Pakatan) like to talk politics, blame the previous government instead of working to put things right for the country as promised, “ said the 56-year-old, who has three children.

An Indian woman in Kuala Sawah said “Pakatan Harapan lah” when asked on who may win the by-election.

However, she did not want to elaborate or comment on the candidates.

Another Indian woman in her early thirties just smiled when posed the same question.

Of the 19, 950 voters, 53.8% are Malays, followed by Indians ( 26.8%) and Chinese (19.3%).

Rantau By Election